May 29, 2015 Septicflesh, Moonspell & Deathstars conquer NYC 5-17-15
A quick scan of local Metal shows will usually reveal a host of Black Metal, Folk Metal, Metalcore, Post-Metal, and Doom bands flooding the New York metro area almost constantly. This is why the Conquerors of the World III tour, which descended upon Gramercy Theatre in Manhattan on Sunday May 17th, 2015, was such a special treat for Metal fans. A south European billing with one set of Swedes laid the framework for a wave of gothic flavored darkness. Featuring atmospheric Death Metal veterans Septicflesh from Greece, Portugal’s finest Metal export Moonspell, and Sweden’s own Electro-Goth rockers Deathstars, the tour was reminiscent of the pre-millenial days of the late ’90s when such billings were far more common here in the states.
Though the venue was far less than half full, the very first United States tour featuring Deathstars drew everyone in attendance up close to the stage, leaving the back half of the floor shadowed and empty. A band consisting of former musicians from Opthalamia, Dissection, and Swordmaster, Deathstars is something of a supergroup. Its members, featuring one Emil Nodtveidt, the brother of deceased Black Metal anti-hero Jon Nodtveidt, have done so much in the world of Death and Black Metal that its hard not to get excited about the stylistic departure that Deathstars represent.
As the band launched into the title track from 2009’s Night Electric Night album, their pounding rhythms and industrial cadences instantly captured the small but enthusiastic crowd. As they continued on with “Metal” and “Death Dies Hard,” the cheers and the excitement built up. Singer Whiplasher Bernadotte (Andreas Bergh to his mama) moved around the stage with a brash arrogance fitting for his futuristic music of both personal and societal decay. The title track of their latest album from 2014, “The Perfect Cult,” was a catchy, sinister anthem to which tall, Cyber Punk bassist Jonas “Skinny Disco” Kangur flailed his dreadlocks around while mouthing the song’s scathing verses. The chorus, replete with swaths of keys and samples, fit somewhere between Crematory, The Sisters of Mercy, and even a touch of Dark Tranquility’s more Electro moments. A Goth anthem for sure, the song went down a treat before the growing crowd. The danceable “Blood Stains Blondes” gave way to the popular, driving heartbeat of “Cyanide,” and the Swedes closed their all too short set with the vampiric pulse of “Blitzkrieg.” Although certainly having a different feel from most Metal performances, the crowd nevertheless sent Deathstars off amid a torrent of cheers and adulation.
As the crowd thickened, so too did a pall of smoke begin to gather around the stage. Anticipation grew, and within minutes five wolves emerged from the fog to a backing tape of species gone extinct. The crowd roared as the wolves resolved themselves into the Portuguese collective known to mortal men as Moonspell. Fernando Ribeiro, the enchanting frontman, emerged last. Imposing and darkly poetic, he has fronted this band since their inception in 1989, and now in the infancy of their latest album, Extinct, released March 6, 2015, he brings them stateside once more.
The first two songs from the album, “Breathe (Until We Are No More)” and title track “Extinct” sounded polished yet raw, as bombastic and smooth as the shots of fireball whiskey being served at the venue. With a discography spanning a host of styles across their over twenty-five years of existence, Moonspell chose the title track to 2008’s Night Eternal to come next. Full of blackened growls and Mike Gaspar’s ardent, percussive genius, it set the stage for the band to take the crowd back to its 1996 gem Irreligious with “Opium” and “Awake.” The former, a fan favorite, had the crowd singing along to the partially eponymous chorus in a fervor of pure glee. After the chill out of “Awake,” with its Neo-Classical arrangement and darkly spoken poetry, Moonspell returned triumphantly to their newest album with “The Last of Us” and “Medusalem.” The dark, Metal anthem of the former and the almost danceable drive of the latter are two of the album’s highlights. Live, they were enchanting as keyboard mastermind Pedro Paixao stood before an organ designed like the pipes of Pan himself.
Guitarist Ricardo Amorim and bass guitarist Aires Pereira were animated satyrs at this sonic banquet, playing their parts as seamlessly as on record. After the slower “Malignia”, the crowd was treated to an old favorite. Straight off of Moonspell’s ageless debut, Wolfheart, came the bombastic “Vampiria,” a live staple that dances between tempos and genres to create an atmosphere of romantic horror unmatched by all but a very few. Perhaps Moonspell played it with a little extra verve, seeing as how 2015 marks twenty years since its Century Media release. Drawing closer to the end of the set, the Wolfheart love continued with what is perhaps Moonspell’s signature song. Fernando beckoned the adoring crowd to join them in their “Alma Mater,” and as the mid-paced anthem rocked from the rafters to the floor, a Portuguese flag could be seen waving proudly back and forth near the front of the swirling pit by the stage. As the final song took shape, the crowd was gripped by “Full Moon Madness,” another classic from 1996’s Irreligious, seeing the band off in proper form.
By now the venue was pleasantly full, if a bit under capacity. Septicflesh, another veteran band with greater than twenty-five years under its bullet belt, is led by Spiros “Seth” Antoniou on bass guitar and vocals and his brother Christos on guitar. Since beginning as a unique Greek atmospheric Death Metal band, Septicflesh has benefited from at least one of its members studying Classical arrangements. The opening song, “War in Heaven,” off of their latest album, Titan (2014), began in a swirl of atmosphere and keys and resolved into a blasting foray of Melodic Black Metal bombast. The guttural growl of Antoniou dovetailed with his cinematic costume of gray plate armor. With the crowd now warmed to the task, Septicflesh blasted into “Communion,” a track off the 2008 album of the same name, a scorcher of blast beats and keyboards straight out of a Horror movie. Neo-Classical interludes were pierced by the roar of the appreciative crowd. The band, imposing and positively otherworldly, stoked the crowd to new heights with “Order of Dracul,” a killer song mixing Death Metal with what can best be described as orchestral breakdowns.
The pit moved with the frenetic pounding of the song before the band launched into “Pyramid God” off of 2011’s The Great Mass. Showcasing a slightly more Goth Rock direction, Antoniou’s demonic vocals kept the song firmly in Death Metal territory. Fans were delighted at every twist in the track’s stygian journey. The more Progressive leanings of the title track from the newest album went down rather well, as Antoniou’s cavernous shout of “TITAN!” was loud enough to possibly stop traffic out on E 23rd St. Drummer Krimh deftly laid down the sporadic blasts within the song’s challenging composition, ensuring tightness and professionalism throughout. Another track from Titan, “Prototype,” features a tension building intro and an almost Tech-Death foundation which had the crowd near the front slamming and headbanging from start to finish. Nocturnal, bombastic keyboard surges only added to the ghoulish atmosphere and Classical oeuvre of Septicflesh’s latter day material. From there came “The Vampire From Nazareth,” another blasphemous storm that had the crowd in a skirmish.
Septicflesh wound down with “Dogma,” leaning once again on the latest album. Creepy and slow, the atmospherics within it came over well. The bombastic Neo-Classical meets blast beat edginess in “Persepolis,” giving the crowd false respite from the battery. Tension and atmospheric build-ups were the order of the evening, and the fans ate it up with zest. “Anubis,” with its variety of moods and robust, clean singing, was an interesting penultimate choice, until the last song “Prometheus’ blared out, ending the evening with a song from Titan. Where most bands will close with something from their origin or classic period, Septicflesh continues to rely on much newer material. For them it works, though, and despite some grumbling for older material, Septicflesh proudly conquered on this night with their later songs, which are extremely strong and serve to show that the Greeks are far from a novelty act.
Overall, fans had very little to complain about on this night and far more to cheer about. The unique billing was a Gothic Electro Industrial tour de force, and as the Gramercy Theater emptied, the smiles upon the faces of the faithful remained long after the house lights shut down for the night.